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Food pirates peddling fake olive oil, Chinese tomato sauce

Govt seized 28,000 tons of counterfeit food in 2012

05 December, 19:14
Food pirates peddling fake olive oil, Chinese tomato sauce (ANSA) - Rome, December 5 - A report issued Thursday by Italian environmentalists and consumers shows the market in counterfeit Italian food is doing brisk business, peddling everything from watered-down olive oil to imitation cheese to Chinese tomato sauce repackaged with a Made in Italy label. Now in its 10th edition, the annual report by the Citizen's Defense Movement and Legambiente environmentalist NGO documented 500,000 government inspections leading to the seizure of 28,000 tons of counterfeit or adulterated products worth half a billion euros in 2012 alone. The highest rate of seizures, 20 million euros' worth of goods or 47%, occurred within what should be Italy's pride and joy, the wine sector.

Authorities also seized 4.6 tons of tomatoes, another mainstay of Italian cuisine that also turned out to be fraudulently peddled as organic or falsely labeled as being of Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), which is an EU denomination for products whose claim to quality depends entirely on the territory in which they were produced. Tomato imports from outside the EU have risen by 187% since 2010, which is when the government began to take a closer look at the sector, according to the report.

"Consumers are still the unwitting victims of food fraud.

We need severe penalties to be a real deterrent", said Citizens' Defense Movement President Antonio Longo.

"Guaranteeing food safety is not just healthy, but also crucial to safeguarding our gastronomic heritage", said Legambiente President Vittorio Cogliati Dezza.

The report came after thousands of Italian farmers protested close to the border with Austria on Wednesday as agriculture association Coldiretti said food piracy was causing businesses to close in droves here.

Coldiretti said unfair competition from foreign produce branded to look Italian has contributed to the demise of 136,351 farms and agricultural companies since the start of the global economic crisis in 2007.